Reviewing the Tough Mudder Race

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Here’s my “Tough Mudder” experience and a few tips on how to prepare for it if you’ve got it marked on your calendar.

I was one of those guys that signed up for the Tough Mudder because someone at work asked me to join the team that they formed.  I didn’t know much about  it except it was a race, you ran through some mud and had to work through a few military obstacles before crossing the finish line.

“Sign me up!”

The event was held yesterday, in Poplar Bluff, Mo.  Only this last Monday did I hit youtube to see what it was really about.  I’ll admit that I had a few “are you serious?” moments while watching the videos.

You have to run through live voltage and jump in a dumpster full of ice?  Serious?

While watching these videos, I was getting discouraged but only because it was the first time all year I had become sick.  I’m not talking a sore throat and a few sneezes.  I had what felt like the flu or maybe even bronchitis.. complete with chills, fever and more sneezing and snot than a man should ever have to deal with.

Throughout the week, I tried to get all the sleep and medications I could.  I took three days off work.  In my heart, I knew that I would probably follow through with the race, no matter how I felt.  When it comes to anything competitive, I’m not known to always make the smartest decisions.

Friday came.. one more day until the event and I woke up feeling worse than I had all week, almost like I had relapsed back to Monday.  I was actually considering calling the event off but ultimately decided I would at least make the three hour drive at 5am the next morning and see how I felt.

Race Day Has Arrived!

God must have heard my prayers because when I woke up shortly before 5am, it was the best I had felt all week.  My throat wasn’t hurting for the first time!  No chills or fever.  Awesome!

I carpooled out to the event with three guys from work and honestly felt about 80-90% of my usually healthy self.  Even though I wasn’t 100%, I’ll take it!

The closer we got to the event, the better I felt.  The temperature was already in the mid-sixties and supposed to hit 82 degrees for the day.  Perfect!

On arriving, there was only one road in to the event and traffic was backed up for miles on this little farm road in the middle of nowhere.  We had to wait about 50 minutes to finally get to the parking lot.

We arrived right about the time we were scheduled to begin the event.  No worries..  Tough Mudder could care less when you start.  You hop the first obstacle when you’re ready and time yourself.

Registration was a breeze and setup well.  There were about 20 tables and we moved through in about five minutes.

Let the Race Begin!

After a ten minute speech intended to pump us up, we hopped over the first obstacle and began the course.  You immediately start walking through some knee deep muddy water.

“Oooooh… cold for so early in the morning!”

The water was getting a bit deeper and we found ourselves searching for more secure footing, realizing people in front of us were suddenly toppling over and getting neck deep in water.. and not by choice!

I was almost out of the clear and lost my footing right at the end..  becoming one of the “mostly submerged” victims.

“Okay, good..  getting all wet is out of the way now.. no need to worry about it anymore!”

Surprisingly, I wasn’t even cold.  Adrenaline had kicked in.

“Let’s do this!”

For the next three hours and some odd minutes, we tackled every obstacle before us.  Some created feeling of apprehension.. but in the end, we loved them all.

The Toughest Obstacles

The “Arctic Enema”.  It’s an extra-large dumpster that looks to have as much ice as water in it.  You can hear the shrieks of pain as you approach it about 30 minutes into the course.

If you have ever wanted to see how cold you could make your core temperature, the Arctic Enema won’t disappoint you.  You have to jump in (no slow stepping to try and adjust – not that you would want to!) and you want to jump as close to the center as possible.  There’s a board in the middle and the only way past that is under it.

When you take that breath to go under, you’ll feel a bit of panic as the extreme cold hits you full-force in those same few seconds.

You then swim to the other end and realize the worst part is actually when you stand up.

What the… ?!

Everyone on my team agreed that the few seconds of climbing out is when you seemingly experience the coldest temperatures of all for about 10 seconds.  Maybe some physicist can explain that sensation to me because it was unexpected and none too pleasant.

On the positive side, I had previously wondered if that chill would stay with me for a while or quickly pass?  It took all of about 30 seconds to feel perfect and then, you feel extra great.. really invigorated!

Live Voltage.  Call me a wuss if you will but I’m just not a big fan of being shocked.  We talked about this on the way down to the event and the consensus was that they couldn’t possibly shock you too hard or it wouldn’t be allowed, right?


They shocked the hell out of me.  There were two obstacles with high voltage and the electricity pulsates up to 10,000 volts.  I learned that the body can actually absorb a lot of electricity.  It’s the amps that kill you.. not the volts.

I was shocked a total of 7 times in two different obstacles.  Both obstacles required lying down and crawling to reach the end and the wires were far too plentiful to try and push out of the way.  The only option is to crawl fast and hope.

I crawled fast but “hoping” did me little good.  I thought I got shocked pretty good on the first obstacle but nothing prepared me for the first shock of the second obstacle.  I took one to the center of my back and it took me from a low crawl and left me face down in the mud.  I felt like someone had hit me in the back with a hammer.

“Can they really do this to us?!” 

I soon realized I just had to quit trying to reason a faster way out and simply crawl faster than I ever had.  A huge thanks to the unknown dude at the end that extended his hand to me and swiftly pulled me through the last few feet.

Pain.  Yes.. pain is a legitimate obstacle so I’ll write about it.  I have a bad right  knee that I’ve been bragging to the world about all year because since losing over 35 lbs this year, it’s the first time in years I haven’t felt knee pain.  That all changed today.

When you’re trudging through mud (and it just gets thicker and deeper as the course goes on) you have to pull your legs up with your knees.  You’re pulling a lot of extra weight with ever step.  Compound this movement with lots of trail running throughout the event and you’ve got a recipe for knee pain.

I felt knee pain like I haven’t felt in years.  I still ran the course pretty well but I had to do much of it with a slight grimace on my face.  I am still feeling a lot of knee pain today (the next day) as a result.

I might have been the lucky one as 2/3 guys I was with were experiencing severe cramps in the calf and quads.  If you’ve ever ran much, you know that once these pains surface, they are hard to make go away and you just simply need to rest.  No time for that though!  Much credit to both these guys who both finished despite dealing with some obvious pain.

My Favorite Obstacles

I loved climbing the mud hills.  I’m not sure why but I felt like I was able to scale them more quickly than anyone around me.  I flew up those.

Funky MonkeyI loved the Funky Monkey too.  Maybe it’s because I love doing monkey bars at the playground and pull-ups in general and typically do them with 80-lb dumbbells attached but I felt like it was another event that had I could fly on.

Watching other groups attempt this, I was surprised that most people were falling before the half-way point.

2/4 on my team made it to the end and that appeared to be better than the average.

 The Berlin Walls.  The course had several of these 12′ wooden walls that you have to scale.  Most often you need the assistance of your team to help you up to the top.  I did manage to scale the last one unassisted.

These just make the course feel like a true military course and I like watching others try various “unique” methods to try and make it over.

Mission Accomplished!

click the pic for a close-up

Tough Mudders

I’m second from the left – with the green top

I made it through the sickness and my team and I conquered every obstacle.  We were muddier than ever but there’s definitely a feeling of accomplishment that goes along with completing the course.

Completing a Tough Mudder is not nearly so grueling as completing the Ironman Triathlons (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, 26.2 run) I’ve participated in but it’s challenging for sure and there’s pride in crossing the finish line.

Tough MudderI got my badge, my headband and a t-shirt and I’m officially a Tough Mudder!

Training Tips for the Tough Mudder

Though it would seem that Cross-Fit might be the best way to train for a Tough Mudder, I would recommend some good old fashioned running above all else.

Truth be told, none of the obstacles are really that tough but in between all those obstacles, there’s  a lot of road to travel.

Running seemed to be getting to my team more than anything.  It will definitely “empty the tank” so be sure and prepare accordingly.

My next recommendation is doing a lot of leg work, alternating between some slow squats and some explosive leg movements, like jumping in general.

After a few miles of running and walking through mud, you’ll feel your legs actually shaking as you encounter more and more mud towards the end.  Leg strength and stability will come in handy.

You really don’t need much upper body strength for the contest so don’t let that be the focus of your training for this event.

Other Mudder Tips

Find out how to keep rocks out of your shoes!  I thought that by bringing an old pair of tennis shoes and just lacing them up extremely tight, I could keep the rocks out.  This doesn’t work.  At the end of every mud course, you’ll see all kinds of people pulling their shoes off and emptying rocks.  I had to do this at least eight times during the day.

I’m not sure what the best method is (duct-tape maybe?), but when we do another Tough Mudder (planned for next year), I’ll be researching a better way to approach feet protection.

If you have knee problems, wear some braces.  You’ll be really happy you did.

Eat a lot of potassium the day before!  in fact, just load up on carbs in general, but get at least 3000mg of potassium.  I did this and didn’t cramp at all during the day.  Bananas are the easiest way to get your potassium at about 500mg each.

Compete in a group of four and try to find other groups of four to compete against.  We had an absolute blast in our group of four and many times, we talked about how much more fun it would be to be competing against a few other groups with the same number of members.

You’re only as fast as your slowest member so helping each other is a must!

If you’re going with a very large group, you might consider that you’ll have to do a lot of waiting at each obstacle for all your group members to get through.  Four was the perfect number for us and what we want to repeat with next year.

And finally.. don’t forget to help each other but don’t get too cocky.

Helping is a must.  The camaraderie is what these events are all about.  It’s the reason I enjoyed the race much more than previous triathlons.  It’s great to be able to talk to your pals all day while your embracing new challenges.  It’s great to be able to help each other through the tough spots.

That said, a lot of people were getting hurt out there.  These courses are dangerous and without any knowledge of any terrain, it’s just foolish to go at it too fast.  People have died in these mud events (not the Tough Mudder specifically) and others have been paralyzed for life.

We witnessed a broken nose and another individual being flown out by helicopter as we were leaving.

Don’t make it a day where you’re trying to be the best around.  Make it a day where you’re enjoying time spent with friends and completing new challenges.

Drop back by and let me know how you did.  I’d love to know!

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